Health & Fitness

In-Your-Face Fitness: Friend through thick and thin?

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Dear Friend:

You drew me to your website with promises of rapid muscle gain and even faster fat loss. I know we're friends because that's the first thing I saw at the top of your home page: "Dear Friend." That makes it official, doesn't it?

And now I'm upset because you're not being a very good friend. I think you've been lying to me.

First, I'm not sure if the body pictured on your website is really you. If it is, then why is the head chopped off? I mean, your abdominals are so sculpted and oily and hairless, and your muscles are bulging — why wouldn't you want to include your face in that photo? Maybe it isn't you.

But wait, we're friends, right? I guess I can forgive that little deception. After all, we can't expect our friends to be 100% honest with us all the time, can we? But the problem is that wasn't the only time.

You told me you knew the "secret" to turn my body into a "fat-melting machine" without doing any aerobic training and by focusing on special "super foods" like acai berry. You said I could lose 30 pounds in 30 days, which got me questioning your math.

There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. My sedentary metabolism burns about 2,300 calories a day, and I can't go much below 1,800 a day without risking metabolic slowdown (and an overwhelming desire to eat everything in sight). So even if I watch everything I eat, that still leaves 3,000 more calories to burn off each day. Does your program involve the equivalent of running a marathon each day, except without any actual aerobic exercise?

Besides, Dr. Robert Kushner, clinical director of the Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity in Chicago, asserts that a safe rate of weight loss is only 1 to 2 pounds per week, not 7. And the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest tells me that acai does not promote weight loss and is often sold as part of an online credit card scam.

You told me to "say no to cardio," like there is something wrong with running to assist weight loss. This confused me because, according to the first law of thermodynamics, weight loss is all about creating a caloric deficit. Since running tops the list of calorie-burning activities, why would I want to stop? Is this another lie, one of those things where you tell people what they want to hear?

I wonder if you read "Why People Believe Weird Things," the book by Michael Shermer, executive director of the Skeptics Society. "More than any other, the reason people believe weird things is because they want to," Shermer wrote. "It feels good. It is comforting. It is consoling."

Is this just one of those examples where you're trying to comfort me by saying I don't have to work hard to lose weight? I think I'd rather get the facts and the results.

Speaking of results, I also wonder about those muscle-building claims on your site. They seem a little … unrealistic. Do you really think I can gain a pound of muscle a day, day after day? I mean, even the pharmaceutically assisted and genetically gifted Arnold Schwarzenegger had to work his tail off to gain 25 pounds of muscle in a year.

These must be some pretty awesome secrets you have, which I notice are available in your book. I like to read and have many fitness books on my shelf. Most of them cost about $20 to $25, have instructional pictures taken by professional photographers and are professionally edited and sold by respected publishing houses.

I noticed that if I want your book I have to act fast to get the "special introductory price." The special price is $39, which is quite a bit more than I'm used to paying, and all I get is a PDF document that I have to print myself.

I wonder: Does your book have pictures? Did you hire a professional editor? After looking at your website I'm thinking the answer is probably no.

Speaking of your website, I think you got a bit carried away with the all-caps and bolded text, excessive yellow highlighting and multiple exclamation points. I get it that you're promising to TURN MY BODY INTO A FAT-INCINERATING BLAST FURNACE!!!!! You can turn down the volume.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, you're not scamming me, are you? Of course not, because we're friends and you've got all these great "before" and "after" pictures from other people who've used your secret formula to get in shape. So that's proof that your system really works, right? Sure, your writing makes me think of someone whose mom didn't do such a good job child-proofing the house when you were little, but I could get past that if you were really going to help me lose 30 pounds in 30 days.

So I started searching to see what other people were saying about your program. I wanted to find out if your customers were getting the promised results, and this is when I started to realize that maybe you aren't such a good friend after all.

I typed your name into Google, followed by the words "scam" and "ripoff." (Sorry for not trusting you, but in this economy we all need to be careful with our money.) I have to tell you, it was like slipping into the Matrix. I couldn't find any real complaints about your program. Did they disappear into an alternate universe? I wonder whether the search results were carpet-bombed by robots creating an endless stream of semi-legitimate-looking reviews with four-and-a-half and five stars, all with links to buy your book. Are the machines rising up?

I also learned that your "special introductory rate" has been in place for the last few years. Isn't that sort of like a used car salesman saying he's got a few other buyers on the line?

I was starting to seriously question our friendship and decided that we needed to take a break from one another. But when I tried to leave, you wouldn't let me go! The back button on my browser wouldn't work, and even trying to close the browser window was futile. You made me click on some complicated pop-up window before I could finally get away. Twice! I felt so, so … violated.

I don't think this friendship of ours is going to work out. I don't deserve to be treated this way. Since it seems we've got a relationship built on lies, allow me to tell one of my own:

It's not you. It's me.

Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, Canada.

james@bodyforwife.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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